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Darth Meow: Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy

Education > Patient Stories 14th October 2019

Artist Yanyun has a keloid scar on her chest. Initially, she was conscious and upset when it grew. Now she doesn't hide it anymore. In fact, the scar is a meaningful central theme of her artwork "The Scars That Write Us" at the President's Young Talents exhibition.

Interestingly, Darth Meow now carries a unique scar all his own. It started off as an unexpected wound on his back which turned into an abscess. It was puzzling how a totally chill indoor cat sustained this injury.

Darth Meow is also living with Feline Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy which causes the muscular ventricular walls of his heart to thicken. His heart condition is being medically managed by our veterinary specialist Dr Nathalee Prakash at Mount Pleasant Vet Centre (Gelenggang)


HCM is a condition that causes the muscular ventricular walls of the heart to become too thick or hypertrophied. When the left ventricle becomes smaller and the thickened muscle walls less flexible, it no longer relaxes or stretches sufficiently to fill with blood from the left atrium. It becomes difficult for blood to be pumped out of the ventricle and through the aorta to the rest of the body. As blood backs up "upstream", the fluid is forced into the lungs and chest cavity causing pulmonary edema and pleural effusion (congestive heart failure).


Some cats do not appear ill while others show signs of congestive heart failure (when fluid accumulates in or around the lungs) including laboured or rapid breathing, lethargy, appetite and weight loss.

A serious consequence of HCM is the formation of blood clots in the heart which may travel through the bloodstream to obstruct flow in other parts of the body (thromboembolism). In cats with HCM, clots most commonly result in blockage of blood flow to the hind limbs, causing acute hind limb pain or hind limb paralysis.

Given Darth Meow's underlying heart condition, it was an anxious day for Yanyun putting him through general anaesthesia and surgery. With careful calculation of anaesthetic agents and and vigilant monitoring during and post-anaesthesia, all went well. The abscess was drained, the wound stitched up with drainage tubes put in place and Darth Meow was also neutered at the same time.


X-rays, electrocardiogram and echocardiography (cardiac ultrasound) are common diagnostic tests for animals with suspected heart conditions. A definitive diagnosis of HCM is achieved by echocardiography (using sound waves to create an image of the heart) which allows our vets to evaluate the size of the chambers, thickness of the heart muscles, function of the valves, how well the heart is contracting, how efficiently blood is flowing through the heart and check for blood clots.

Other conditions which cause similar heart thickening, including systemic hypertension (high blood pressure) and hyperthyroidism, must be ruled out prior to diagnosing HCM.


Early diagnosis and a specialised care plan can help manage clinical signs of HCM and significantly improve the quality of your cat's life. The goals of medical therapy is to relax the heart muscle, slow down the heart rate (allowing a longer time for the heart to fill), prevent or delay the onset of congestive heart failure, and prevent complications such as formation of blood clots.

If you are caring for a cat with HCM, learn to monitor your cat's vital signs and be sensitive to changes in your pet's condition. If your cat is having breathing difficulty (panting or open-mouth breathing) or experiencing sudden loss of limb function, seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

To Yanyun, Darth Meow is "My new studio companion, teaching assistant and adopted child." Today, his HCM is well managed - he is eating more, gaining weight steadily and "living his best life at home." Perhaps for this little fluff-kid who now bears a spunky lightning bolt scar like his artist mom, ART will be good for his heART!